Wildlife report for August 2012

By Patrick O’Brien on September 3, 2012

As August has gone and spring sets upon us we can already feel the warmth of summer on our skin during the early morning game drives. The sun also makes an appearance early and we will probably have to go out earlier in the next few days. August was exciting especially with regards to the lion sightings. I suspect that this will continue to volatile during the next few months.

Anyway let‘s start this report with the Hyena clan.

The Hyena clan.
The two hyena dens on the property still remain the highlight of all my sightings. I think the only possible sighting that could surpass this would be to see something that I have not seen in 14 years of guiding in Timabavati.

The social behavior that is displayed by the adult females with their cubs is just incredible and a rarity to actually witness simply because den sites are normally concealed deep in the bush.
A mother and her two cubs.
As I have explained before in my last report hyenas are often portrayed of being the pirates of the bushveld and often have a bad reputation because they supposedly are stealing other predator‘s food. Little are we told that lions and leopard steal too when the opportunity arises simply because it is economical to do so in this competitive eco-system.
Two cubs playing with an impala skin.
Spotted hyenas usually hunt almost any type of antelope in Timbavati either singly, or in groups of two or three. They can catch adult wildebeest usually after 5 km chases at speeds of up to 60 km/h. Chases are usually initiated by one hyena and, with the exception of cows with calves, there is little active defense from the wildebeest herd. Sometimes they will make an attempt to escape hyenas by taking to water though, in such cases, the hyenas almost invariably catch them. Zebras require different hunting methods to those used for wildebeest, due to their habit of running in tight groups and aggressive defense from stallions. Typical zebra hunting groups consist of 10-13 hyenas. During a chase, zebras typically move in tight bunches, with the hyenas pursuing behind in a crescent formation. Chases are usually relatively slow, with an average speed of 15-30 km/h. A stallion will attempt to place itself between the hyenas and the herd, though once a zebra falls behind the protective formation it is immediately set upon, usually after a chase of 3 km. Though hyenas may harass the stallion, they typically only concentrate on the herd and attempt to dodge the stallion’s assaults. Unlike stallions, mares in general only react aggressively to hyenas when their foals are threatened. Unlike wildebeest, zebras rarely take to water when escaping hyenas. When hunting impalas hyenas usually operate alone, and prey primarily on young fawns. Chases against both adult and young impalas can cover distances of 5 km with speeds of 60 km/h. Female impalas do not defend their fawns, though they may attempt to distract hyenas by feigning weakness.

Hyenas are super predators and this month I had a job to convince a good friend and guest of Kings Camp that hyenas are actually not the bad guys that we think them to be. To me this is merely trying to make a living in this difficult and aggressive eco-system.

Rhino and calf standing off against a large male rhino.
Our little female rhino calf is still seen frequently in our traversing. Surprisingly she is covering a lot of distance with her calf which it has no problem keeping up with her. I think this is partly due to the limitation of water resources especially now that we are at the driest time of the year. The lengthy travelling also exposes the calf to different territorial males as she travels through different male rhinos territories. When any female rhino moves through a bull‘s territory there is a possibility that she would soon be discovered and followed.

In our case the bulls has other intentions, like mating, much to the dislike of the cow and soon the interaction became aggressive.
Being a mother she aggressively attacked this bull that ventured to close and was left with facial scaring. The female is merely protecting her calf from the bulls that really have no intention to hurt the calf but to mate with the female.

We often encountered this type of sighting on drive and watched for an hour the standoff between the two. The large female is very aggressive and willing to stand her ground even again male rhinos that are larger than her. Mother instinct to protect is extremely strong.

I was also informed that lions attempted to kill the rhino calf one evening. The claw marks and blood can be clearly seen on the hind legs of the calf. This poor calf must have got the freight of its life and although it is rare for lions to kill a calf it would be very sad if they would be successful.
The young rhino calf playing
The lion dynamics in our area of traversing has gone through some harsh changes during the last 2 years. After making a huge attempt to take control I can with confidence say that the new 2 male‘s lions to our area are here to stay. They have already mated with 3 females from the Ross pride during the last few weeks.
One of the new male lions
Vuhlalu males, as they will be called, made their presence known as the advertised to all lions in the Kings Camp area and adjacent to us, that they have taken control. It is too early to say what will happen to the cubs from the Machattan pride but as an experienced ranger I would think that there is very little chance of them surviving. During the next few months I will update you of the progress of this pride.
Lost for a week this found his mother again
The numbers of Leopard sightings have increased. This would be partly due to the absences of their larger cousins, the lions.
Ntombi and her son are still living in and around the camp and she has made the Nharalumi river her home. The cub which is now 8 months old is almost as big as his mother. It is strange to see a cub that is this young so large. One could only assume that he will be a very large male leopard.

8 month old cub
Rockfig Jnr is still seen and has lost a few kills to hyenas. She has failed to see the danger and was not quick enough to hold her kills. She is a remarkable mother and so far has raised 2 cubs in her career as an adult.
The Xinope male leopard
That‘s all for this month – we hope that you enjoyed the report.

By Patrick O’Brien Head Giude
My Website:

14 thoughts on “Wildlife report for August 2012

  1. Thank you for the wonderful report, Patrick. We are thrilled to see that Rockfig Jr and two of her cubs are thriving.

  2. As always,great to read your reports. Makes Beth and I wish we were here with you. Hopefully, sometime in the next couple of years, we will make it back to Kings Camp.

  3. What a stunning report, Patirck. I only hope there will be this much excitement when we return next August.

    So good to know that the "leopard ladies" are OK. Hope Metangetenga (sp?)is OK also.

    Miss you all, hugs from Joy, Camarillo CA

  4. The photographs are amazing! We have such fond memories of our two visits to Kings Camp and hope to return soon.


    Ellen & Steve Katz

  5. Lovely update of what is happening at King Camp and wonderful photography. Great to see how the hyena cubs are growing and developing their spots. Hi to all at Kings Camp.

    Cheryl Hepburn

  6. We love the lions. Hope you are wrong about the cubs. The males are handsome. The lepords look great a well. Hi to all at the camp and hope we get back some day soon, Maryaane Petersen

  7. loved the update, my son made a dvd of our adventures and we have been showing it to are friends. love looking at our pictures and vids.

  8. We have just returned to Texas after a fabulous trip to King’s Camp. A big thank you to Morné (Flat Tyre) for showing us such awsome viewings and Lisha and Warren and staff for making us feel so welcome. We always love to visit and Patrick’s report was like re-living our own experiences. Amazing!

    Camp Run-a-Muck

  9. Interesting report Patrick, It reminded me of the lovely time our group had at KC. Your photos are beautiful. Say Hi to all the people at the Camp.

  10. Thank you for keeping in touch. It’s good to hear from you and know that all is well with the camp. Love the magnificent photos. I wish you all continued success.

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